You need Diane on your side

DIANE Terblanche is the woman to have on your side if you are tired of getting ripped off by the "small print".

DIANE Terblanche is the woman to have on your side if you are tired of getting ripped off by the "small print".

Terblanche is chairperson of the National Consumer Tribunal, the main concern of which is the basic right to good quality that consumers are entitled to.

With her qualified team she fights for the rights of consumers against big giants in the commercial world.

The tribunal is a public entity that is entirely funded by the government.

It is independent from the state but still accountable to the government.

Terblanche studied law at the University of Western Cape, where she graduated with an LLB degree in 1983.

After doing her articles she was awarded a scholarship to study towards a master's degree at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, in the US.

On her return to South Africa Terblanche went back to her roots at University of Western Cape to help out in its Legal Aid Clinic.

Her time spent at the university was divided between representing people who couldn't afford legal fees and helping young law students with their practical studies.

But Terblanche says it was her time at the Legal Resources Centre that really inspired her to explore consumer affairs.

"I worked on many cases of child abuse which, led me to take on cases representing children's rights."

She said this inspired her to look at the rights of all people, especially consumers.

Terblanche has long been interrogating laws governing insurance policies such as funeral plans and pension funds.

She sternly warns people to be wary of agents' commission fees, which are usually loaded as a loan against the final payout.

"These commissions are charged with interest until the policy matures; payouts are thus exhausted when finally set off against all the deductions," said Terblanche.

She has also been involved in the debate surrounding genetically modified foods.

"On the one hand this process allows for cheaper food products in terms of bigger crops.

"But on the other hand, consumers should be notified whether the product they are paying for is organically grown or genetically produced," she said.

"Our main goal is to make an impact on people's lives by obtaining a level of transparency in the commercial sector," she said.

"Our biggest achievement as a forum to date was getting the Consumer Protection Bill signed into law in April this year."

The law stipulates that every consumer has the right to receive goods that are suitable for purposes for which they are intended.

The goods must also be of a good quality, in good working order and free of any faults.

This mother of two, who decided to keep her maiden surname instead of adopting her husband's surname Ndlovu when she got married, said that she is very proud of her teenage sons.

"Maybe my pride is just a maternal feeling but I think they are absolutely wonderful and very talented too.

"My husband is also an amazing man. He is very supportive of me and after 19 years of marriage we are still going strong," she said.